Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
ORF Home > Environmental Protection > Waste Disposal > What Goes in Chemical Waste Containers

What Goes in Chemical Waste Containers

Chemical wastes can be collected in several different types of containers for disposal. The NIH chemical waste contractors will provide 3 or 5 gallon plastic solvent safety cans (for flammable solvent mixtures), 3 or 5 gallon blue plastic carboys for liquid wastes and a 5 gallon plastic pail for gels and solid wastes.  Glass and plastic bottles of varying sizes can be used to collect chemical wastes generated in small quantities. Often researchers use empty solvent or buffer bottles for chemical waste collection.

When adding different chemical wastes into your waste container, be careful not to create incompatible mixtures. (For example: do not mix acids and bases, acids with cyanides or oxidizers with organic materials).  Incompatible chemicals can produce heat, pressure, fire, explosion, toxic gases or flammable gases. For more information:
EPA chemical compatibility chart External Site PDF   - PDF (19KB)
Information on specific chemical reaction hazards that can be expected on mixing of some common laboratory chemicals


Examples of chemical wastes typically collected in solvent safety cans are

  • Flammable solvents from processes like DNA synthesis or HPLC
  • Acetonitrile, alcohols, xylene, acetone, ethyl acetate, hexane, etc.
  • Mixtures of flammable solvents with 10%  or less halogenated solvents


Note:  Don’t put acids in solvent safety cans; it will rust the metal parts!
HPLC users can use special fittings with this container to connect to the HPLC machine


Examples of chemical wastes typically collected in blue plastic carboys are

  • Formalin solutions
  • Fixer/developer wastes
  • Aqueous wastes containing ethidium bromide or other stains
  • Aqueous buffer solutions sometimes containing small amounts of sodium azide
  • Aqueous acidic or alkaline solutions (don’t collect together)
  • Diaminobenzidine solutions            
  • Mixtures of halogenated solvents and other organic solvents
  • Acid/alcohol solutions
  • Acrylamide/ bisacrylamide solutions
  • Phenol/chloroform


Some examples of chemical wastes typically collected in 5 gallon plastic pails

  • Polyacrylamide gels, often containing biological stains
  • Agarose gels, often containing ethidium bromide or other stains

 If you generate small quantities of chemical wastes, you can collect them in individual glass or plastic bottles (don’t put Hydrofluoric acid in a glass bottle; also halogenated solvents can soften some plastic bottles and cause leaks over time).




This page was last updated on Dec 14, 2012